EFF reports that last week the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2015 was passed in the US House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 4681, contains Section 309, which imposes guidelines for when the intelligence community can keep some communications collected under Executive Order 12333 (EO 12333). President Reagan wrote the policy document in the 1980s to provide the framework for intelligence agency conduct. Today, it is used to justify mass surveillance of communications.
Congress showed that it is willing to tackle the mass spying conducted under EO 12333 by inserting Section 309 into the bill. It’s one of the first times Congress has publicly stood up to spying covered by the Executive Order.
EFF will have a public hearing at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in an attempt to invalidate key claims of a patent used by Personal Audio to shake down podcasters. Personal Audio claims it owns a patent that covers podcasting, despite the fact that many examples of what we now call podcasting existed before the patent was issued. Personal Audio is known as a "non-practicing entity"—a company that doesn't do podcasting itself but instead bases its business model on demanding license fees from actual creators, from garage podcasters to major broadcasters.
EFF's article says that telling users how to strip the DRM from their legally purchased ebooks is not contributory copyright infringement, according to a ruling last month by a federal judge in New York. Judge Denise Cote dismissed two publishers' claims of contributory infringement and inducement in Abbey House Media v. Apple Inc., one of the many cases to come out of the antitrust litigation against Apple and a handful of major publishers.
EFF tells an US district court ruled that the act of using someone else’s computer login credentials, even with their knowledge and permission, is a federal crime. The case was appealed and EFF filed an amicus brief in support, explaining why applying the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is dangerous. First, CFAA prosecutions should be focused on hacking: keeping unwanted and unauthorized people from intruding into computer space. Second, using an authorized user’s credentials with their permission is not circumventing a technological access barrier.
Garcia v. Google is a copyright case arising from the "Innocence of Muslims" video that was associated with violent protests around the world. The appellant, Cindy Lee Garcia, argues that she holds a copyright in her five-second performance in the video, and that the video uses that performance without permission. EFF and many other public interest groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case, noting (among other concerns) that it is a matter of firmly established law that actors generally do not have a copyright in their performances.
EFF says the Secure Data Act starts to address the problem of backdoors by prohibiting any agency from “mandate[ing] that a manufacturer, developer, or seller of covered products design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product, by any agency.” The legislation only prohibits agencies from requiring a company to build a backdoor. The NSA can still do its best to convince companies to do so voluntarily.
The legislation also doesn’t change the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA.) CALEA, passed in 1994, is a law that forced telephone companies to redesign their network architectures to make it easier for law enforcement to wiretap telephone calls. In 2006, the D.C. Circuit upheld the FCC's reinterpretation of CALEA to also include facilities-based broadband Internet access and VoIP service, although it doesn't apply to cell phone manufacturers.